Technology innovations are changing the way we practice law. Innovation that creates paradigm shifts is nothing new. In a July 2018 Legal Talk Network podcast, Whitney Johnson gave some well-recognized examples: The telephone disrupted the telegraph, the lightbulb disrupted the gas lamp, Toyota disrupted General Motors, Netflix disrupted Blockbuster, and Uber has disrupted taxis.
com crogers habush Christopher Earl Rogers, U.W. 1995, of Habush Habush & Rottier SC, Madison, is president-elect of the State Bar of Wisconsin. Reach him by com crogers habush email.
In his book Law is a Buyers Market, Jordan Furlong wrote: “We are now crossing the threshold into a full-scale transformation of the legal market.” What is causing this transformation? Well, the spread of the internet and smart technology into almost all aspects of our personal and professional lives is a big reason. Other forces include globalization and outsourcing, private deregulation, the access to justice gap, and even artificial intelligence.
In 2018, there were more than 700 technology platforms connecting clients to lawyers and providing varying levels of legal services to consumers. Many businesses now rely on alternative legal service providers (ALSPs) for routine legal services. Additionally, law firms are outsourcing some expensive and time-consuming work.
Here are a few examples of innovative technology changing the legal landscape:
Do Not Pay app. This promises to allow users to “sue anyone in small claims court, at the press of a button without the help of a lawyer.” It first gained attention by automating challenges to parking tickets, in court, without an attorney.
LawCo app website. It “connects lawyers with app users in need of immediate representation” in Cook County, Ill.
LawyerExchange. An online platform that matches law firms seeking support with lawyers seeking work and mentorship. Law firms post specific legal projects, and lawyers looking for work submit proposals to complete them.
Online dispute resolution (ODR). A type of alternative dispute resolution that uses artificial intelligence to resolve disputes online. According to BusinessWire, one ODR platform called Modria was “built by the team that created the world’s largest online dispute resolution systems at Ebay and Pay Pal and processes millions of e-commerce cases per year,” with 60-90 percent of those disputes resolved without customer service intervention. Today, courts are beginning to pilot ODR to resolve traffic violations, code enforcement violations, and others. The district court of Clark County, Nev., is using Modria in divorce cases.
What do we do with this information? Many people are rightly concerned about the roads we are going down, but these changes may provide employment opportunities, increased access to justice for rural communities, and other as-yet-to-be-discovered benefits. I urge you to be aware these changes are happening around you. While the old model brick-and-mortar law firm that is all things to all people is still deeply rooted, it’s clear that times are changing. Together, we must determine how to create opportunities and growth in this shifting landscape.
Contact org akaiser wisbar Aviva Kaiser, State Bar ethics counsel, (608) 250-6158, if you’re interested in learning more about the intersection of legal technology and ethics.